Motherhood is not a given thing: Experiences and constructed meanings of biological and nonbiological lesbian mothers

Adital Ben-Ari, Tali Livni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study was designed to examine the subjective experiences of Israeli lesbian mothers. We explored the constructed meanings that both biological and nonbiological mothers relate to their motherhood experience. Eight lesbian couples who were parenting together and who had 1, 2, or 3 children were interviewed. Our data suggest that the birth of the first child to lesbian couples marks a turning point in the lives of each partner, as well as in the lives of the couples, by creating for the first time a significant distinction between the partners. It was found that lesbian mothers tend to organize their experiences into 3 circles of "being": personal, couple, and communal (e.g., familial and social) aspects. Three themes contribute to the theoretical understanding of lesbian motherhood. First, although lesbian couples are known to value the sense of equality in their relationships, the birth of a child by one of the partners is an event that creates 2 different statuses of motherhood: a biological mother and a nonbiological mother. Second, the legal aspects of lesbian motherhood become a part of everyday life for the lesbian family and shape the partners' relationship. Third, being both a lesbian and a mother highlights the fundamental dialectic between marginality and mainstream conformity in the life experiences of lesbian mothers in Israeli society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-531
Number of pages11
JournalSex Roles
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Apr 2006


  • Biological and nonbiological mothers
  • Lesbian couplehood
  • Lesbian motherhood
  • Phenomenological analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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